People in the Know: Bruce and Heather Lane, Purity Ice Cream

Photo by Tyler Finck

LIFL: Purity Ice Cream in Ithaca is celebrating its 85th anniversary this year. Who started the business, and when did you become the owner?

Bruce and Heather Lane: Purity Ice Cream was founded in 1936 by Leo Guentert, a Cornell grad who learned about chocolate working for Nestle. He thought he could make a great chocolate ice cream and that’s how Purity started, in a small house on Ithaca’s North Side. The current location was built in 1953. Purity was run by Leo’s granddaughter Margo Klose after Leo retired. Heather and I purchased it in 1998.

What is it like being a part of the Ithaca community?

Purity Ice Cream has provided a meeting place for Ithacans and visitors where they can enjoy great treats and make lasting memories. Our two favorite things about owning Purity are the generations of people who consider it a family gathering place and the huge number of young people who have found their first job at our company.

What do your customers like most about your shop?

Once in the door, people find that the time they spend with a loved one over a brownie sundae yields enduring memories. Many of our customers choose Purity as the place where they celebrate personal and family milestones. (I proposed to Heather at Purity in 1997. After that, we sort of HAD to buy the place!)

What other products along with ice cream do you offer?

Purity makes fresh baked muffins, pies, cakes and ice cream cookie sandwiches. Our Purity Eggnog is pretty legendary in Central New York – all-natural and gently pasteurized with no preservatives.

What part of the Finger Lakes do you like the most?

As people, we like to hike Ithaca’s gorges and trails. As Purity owners, we love the stories of grandparents and great-grandparents telling their children about eating at our store when they were little!

What words of wisdom would you pass on to your childhood selves?

We both have a giant sweet tooth, which we have cultivated since youth. We would probably give a heads-up to our childhood selves how eating all that ice cream was going to end up with us owning the place!

What is one thing people often misunderstand about Purity?

Sometimes people think we’re a big company. We are really a family business, as we have been for 85 years. Attention to detail and happy customers are the most important things for us.

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